These items are among the items volunteers removed from a section of Kinchafoonee Creek on Saturday. It was estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 nails were removed from the area.
LEESBURG — Members of the Lee and Dougherty County Community Emergency Response Teams and other volunteers removed strands of barbed wire and as many as 10,000 roofing nails from a section of the Kinchafoonee Creek adjacent to a naturally occurring blue hole over the weekend.
Lee Chief Marshal/Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright put together a cleanup team after being informed by off-duty Lee Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tommy Goodwin that there were a large number of nails in the Kinchafoonee near the popular swimming hole.
“I had an idea that there were quite a few nails in the creek,” Wright said Monday. “But I didn’t realize the severity. This could have been a very serious problem with the number of people who like to swim in the blue hole.
“Dale Richter, who owns Dale Richter Roofing and is a member of the (Lee) CERT Team, estimated that there were between 8,000 and 10,000 roofing nails in the (creek) channel that runs by the blue hole. We also found several small strands of barbed wire that could have messed up someone’s foot.”
Lee Marshal/Code Enforcement Officer Ben Roberts, who previously worked with the state Department of Natural Resources, said there’s little chance the nails were accidentally dumped into the creek adjacent to the spring-fed blue hole.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Roberts said. “Personally, I don’t see how it could have been anything but someone intentionally dumping those nails and the barbed wire at that location. Unless we were still using the creek to move goods from one place to another, there would be no reason for the nails to be in that part of the creek.”
Wright, Roberts and more than 20 other volunteers came to the Kinchafoonee Saturday to remove the nails from the creek. The DNR’s Fisheries division loaned the group a dredge that helped with the cleanup.
“When we figured this was going to be a real problem, we contacted the EPD, the Army Corps of Engineers and the DNR to make sure we didn’t need some kind of permit or that we weren’t disturbing delicate habitat,” Wright said. “We got permission from all of the agencies, and the DNR let us use their dredge, which greatly assisted with the effort.”
Wright said that while an impressive amount of potentially dangerous material was removed from the creek, recreational swimmers planning to return to the blue hole should remain cautious.
“There’s no way we could have removed all the nails from the creek,” he said. “So we advise anyone who goes swimming in that area to be careful.”
“The whole effort Saturday was 100 percent volunteer,” Wright said. “I was really impressed with how well the Lee and Dougherty CERT teams managed the site. (Lee CERT team leader) Bobby Spencer even gave a safety briefing before we started, and there were no injuries. That tells me we had the right people on the job.”
In an interesting twist, Wright — who arrived at the cleanup site first — found a wedding ring that David Cheshire, a candidate for Lee County sheriff, had lost in the area two weeks before.
“David gave me a general idea of where he lost the ring, and about 15 minutes after I got down there I found it with my metal detector,” Wright said. “It was nothing but pure luck.”
The Lee marshal said he and others will return to the area where the nails were found in October when the level of the creek is lowered to see if they can find more nails.
As many as 100 volunteers will take to Lee County’s waterways on July 14 for the county’s annual Rivers Alive cleanup program.
The final day to assure a T-shirt as a Rivers Alive volunteer is Friday.
Persons interested in volunteering should contact Lesley Barbosa at the Lee County Chamber of Commerce at (229) 759-2422.